Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was an avid gardener and her poetry reflects this.

a picture of Emily Dickinson's home.

Photo: The Emily Dickinson Museum: Homestead and Evergreens

Emily Dickinson's home in Amherst, Massachusetts where she gardened and wrote.

Emily Dickinson: Poet-Gardener

Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 and lived all of her 56 years in Amherst, Massachusetts where, she was celebrated more as a gardener than a poet. Gardening in mid-Victorian times was thought to be a more appropriate activity for a woman.

In her book “The Gardens of Emily Dickinson” (Harvard University Press, 2004), Judith Farr explains how Emily’s hands-on-horticultural knowledge influenced her writing so profoundly. She frequently referred to herself and loved ones using flower names; flower images and garden themes were used to explore her emotional reality.

She described heaven as a “garden we have not seen” and her poems as “blossoms of the brain.” As a gardener, she understood that without the chill of winter, some perennial plants cannot produce new growth. Bleak times in human lives, like winter in a garden, however, may be a prelude to growth and new beginnings.

For Emily, winter had a masculine persona and a stony aspect, but she also felt the promise of relief when she wrote these lines about her winter:

“Generic as a
Quarry
And hearty – as
A rose -
Invited with
Asperity
But welcome
When he goes”

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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